Tag: thomas jefferson

The Government Shutdown: Rough Seas for Investors

Nickolas Roberson | United States

“NOTICE: Due to a lapse in federal funding this website is not being updated.” That’s the large, menacingly red statement that one reads as they access portions of the websites for the United States Census Bureau (USCB) or Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Investors, entrepreneurs, and economists all rely on government data to make market decisions. Yet with the government shutdown, this data is unavailable.

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It’s Time to Ensure Equal Standards for Government and the People

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

In today’s political landscape, government and the people do not have an equal amount of power. Such a notion really is indisputable, considering the fact that our military just aided Saudi forces by supplying weapons and mid-air support to their air strikes, which bombed and killed a bus full of schoolchildren in Yemen Thursday. However, not one of them will face a prison sentence, or any real punishment at all. In fact, most of this, like the planes, flew under the radar of the people entirely.

Clearly, if an individual did this, he or she would be looking at a nasty punishment, likely involving the electric chair. But ironically, the death penalty is also an example of government carrying more rights than the people. As the average time spent on death row exceeds 15 years, it is safe to say that this is no act of self defense. Thus, it is yet another legal ability government has, but the people do not. It’s darkly and bitterly funny how the state sees killing. They kill people who kill people, because killing people is wrong, right? Got it. How else would you deal with someone who does something so morally reprehensible as killing someone?

Now, the list of government privileges that the people do not have goes far beyond these two. For example, the government may confiscate your land through eminent domain, then take and sell back your right to fish on that land. Imagining the consequences of an individual trying to do the same to his neighbor leads down a wicked path to the end of a shotgun barrel, not to mention a potential for some more government-approved killing as well.

Despite this clear power imbalance, the most crucial part of the Declaration of Independence directly warns against such an atrocity.

To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. 

The Consent of the Governed clause is a tremendously important segment of the document. Though not legally binding, it establishes an important precedent for the types of government that may exist.

Essentially, this clause states that the people may choose what powers they give to the state. Power begins with the people, and then, they may delegate them to the state at will. But how can the people delegate powers that they don’t have in the first place?

The question stumped Vermont’s very own Senator Bernie Sanders, in a 2008 interview. The independent, on a YouTube show with Jan Helfeld, agreed that all just powers of the government are derived from the people. But then, after some back and forth questioning, Sanders admits that people do not have the right to initiate force against others (sans self defense).

As Helfeld excellently questions after this, how can the people delegate this right, if they do not have it? If the people give their rights to the government, and that is the only form of just government, how does a just government obtain rights that the people did not have, and thus, were entirely unable to give away? This sends Sanders, and likely many others, into a tailspin.

The senator admits that the people give the state the power to make war and roads. Then, he goes so far as to say yes, people can give government rights they do not have. However, this is entirely contradictory to his previous statement.

In no way is Bernie Sanders alone in his clearly contradictory beliefs in this manner. He just happened to be unlucky enough to get caught under the net of Helfeld’s tough questioning. When it comes down to it, all 100 senators have the same ideals as Sanders, in this way. All claim a desire for a just and representative government, as outlined by the founding documents of our country. Yet, all support a government with rights that the people do not have.

Last March, the Senate voted, 55-44, against a treaty that would have made it more difficult for the president to place troops in Yemen without congressional oversight. In fact, Sanders, along with Senators Mike Lee and Chris Murphy, were on the right side of this one. Had the bill passed, Congress would have needed to approve any further military action. But in this case, even the right side ignores the real issues.

Regardless of whether or not the president or Congress is stationing troops in Yemen, there is a body forcing troops to go to Yemen. Yes, it is true that the draft is not currently active, and those in Yemen are volunteers. But the Senate made sure in 2016 that they had the power to round up the troops if necessary. When the civilians do that one, it’s called kidnapping.

Ultimately, it matters little whether the men (and women now) in Yemen are volunteer or recruit. Likewise, it matters little in the 39% of the world’s countries the United States is fighting terror in. Spoiler alert, terror is winning. With each civilian casualty, terror spreads. And as it all happens, the government approves it, clearly without a justification.

Thomas Jefferson was an imperfect man, owning slaves and having an affair with at least one of them. His public policy was also, in many cases, hypocritical, as his distaste for noble blood matched his equal belief that white blood was superior. But, when it comes to the Declaration of Independence, the third president is spot on.

A government, if it is to exist at all, must derive its rights from the consent of the governed (not from 51% of them, either). Today’s state entirely ignores this principle. In many cases such as with Senator Sanders, our elected officials do not even realize their own hypocrisy. It is time to take the government back, end the wars, bring the rights back to the people, and eliminate those rights which do not exist at all. It is time to ensure equal standards exist between government and the people. The future of our country and the lives of those abroad depend on it.

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The Founding Fathers were Right to be Deists

By Jack Parkos | United States

The Age Of Enlightenment brought many new ideas to the world, including liberty, science, and skepticism towards monarchs. People may not know how much deism helped move these ideas. In fact most people don’t know what deism is. Some people may be deists and not know it.

To understand deism, it is important to recognize to other religious beliefs: atheism and theism. Atheists, of course, believe that there is no God, while theists disagree. Theists also believe in religious texts and ceremonies.

So what do deists believe? Deists believe that a supreme power created the universe but does not interfere with it. A deist would reject revelation, organized religion, and the supernatural. Deists often refer to “god” as “The Creator” as the belief is that The Creator did create the world, but does not seek to be worshiped as a god. The Creator created not only the universe, but the laws of physics, natural law, and the ability to reason.

Since deists have no book stating what they must believe, they must use reason to come to conclusion. Some deists believe in a more scientific creator, while others say The Creator is more spiritual. Deists also are divided on the afterlife. Some have slightly different views from others, but all agree on the principle of a Creator and no divine intervention. Some famous deists include Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, John Locke, and many other enlightenment thinkers. Many deists start out as Christians who reject the churches ideas but still believe in a creator of the universe.

You may be asking how deists come to this belief. What makes a Christian reject religion but still believe in the creator?  Let us start with the argument for an existence of a creator. Remember this creator is not the God of the Bible. Let us start with the universe itself, very complex, full of coincidences. In fact, the current state of the universe itself is highly statistically unlikely.

It’s nearly impossible for life to exist, given all of the factors required. The universe could not just pop into existence (the Big Bang). Rather, some higher power created it. Then, we look at how complex everything is. For example there are many laws of nature. The First Law of Thermodynamics states energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but transformed, from one form to another. This is a complicated law, stating that energy cannot be naturally created, but obviously energy exists. Thus, a paradox forms. Energy had to come from somewhere. We must also look at the idea of the Big Bang, science has explanation as to what was before the big bang nor a good reason how/why it happened. To point it simply, there are too many coincidences to believe in that the universe just happened.

Then, we look into biology and genetics. DNA is very complex and truly amazing. We all know that DNA is made of four nucleobases: A,T,G, and C. In just one cell there are 3 billion letters, all arranged perfectly to create each individual species. It is like the coding of a computer, and computers always have someone create a program. So what does this all point to?

A deist would use the reasoning that the complexity of DNA could not just be coincidence, much like how a computer program can’t just happen. How do those four chemicals arranged in billions of different ways create an individual living organism? The deist reasoning is that the Creator doesn’t pick out each chemical and arrange for each individual species but rather DNA and the way it works was a creation of his. DNA is simply to complex to not be a creation. Life is no coincidence.

Now we will look at the deist argument for a non intervening god. They will agree with theists that the world was created (though we may disagree on how), but then, the similarities end. Theists now state God has been watching over and intervening in the world, while deists believe nature has been governing us. Now, we must ask which is a more logical belief.

The most common intervention the theist will believe in is a religious text. But, there are so many different religious texts all claiming to be right, none having major evidence over the other. Why does one book (say the Bible, for example,) have more logic than the Quran? Both claim that theirs is the true word of god, yet neither have direct empirical evidence of that being the case. What makes a book the word of God? What makes claims of the Bible more rational than Greek Mythology? The idea of something being the “Word of God” was used to rule over people, (this is where it starts to tie into libertarianism, which I will analyze more in part 2) forcing people to follow rules and rule leaders because “God said so”.

The “Word of God” is not a book, as the Creator could not put his words in a way we could comprehend in a book. The word of God is rather, nature. Above we discussed the complexity of DNA. Think of how beautiful and amazing nature is. How perfect it is. This is the word of God, not claims from a Prophet. We all can observe nature, we all don’t get revelation. Which makes more logical sense?

Let us now look at other ways theists claim God intervenes. Miracles. Theists believe God may help the world through supernatural acts. Some claim God cures sickness, saves people in disasters, and even helps teams win in sports. But let us look at third world countries, people who pray the most and get the least amount of miracles. How does an all-powerful and intervening God allow such suffering to occur?

The theist, when asked, says the same scapegoat that they cannot understand the will of God. But that same person also claims that they can determine the word of God based off a two thousand year old book. That is blasphemy! An all-loving and all-powerful God would not allow evil to exist. Christians often respond to this with the fact that evil exists only because we have free will. Yet, God floods the Earth in their sacred text, robbing them of free will. The deist is the true believer of free will. There is no higher being controlling us. We are 100% free within the laws of nature.

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America: Closer to Mussolini than the Founders’ Goal

By Jack Parkos | United States

In 1776, the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, breaking away from tyrannical British rule. Thirteen years later, they ratified the Constitution after years of fighting and many deaths. The Founders differed on many issues, but agreed on the ideas of self governance and limited government. They also believed in the idea of inalienable rights that government could not take. They were heavily influenced by “The Wealth Of Nations” by Adam Smith, which was published in the same year America declared independence. This book created the idea of Laissez-Faire Economics. The Founding Fathers wanted a capitalist nation with a limited government. This government system, of course, would be a Constitutional Republic.

The Rise of Mussolini

However, the 19th and 20th Centuries saw the rise of extreme ideologies, most notably Marxism and reactionary movements. One such movement was fascism. Nowadays, fascism gets thrown around commonly as a buzzword without a full understanding of its meaning. Fascism is a highly nationalist ideology, consisting of a mixed economy, militarism, and an authoritarian government. Fascism rose in between the world wars. One of the most famous fascists was Benito Mussolini.

Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because its the merger of state and corporate power.

Mussolini’s quote explains a lot about fascism, which partners the state and corporations over the people. Mussolini promoted heavy elitism and bureaucracy, which resulted in his totalitarian state.

Economically, corporatism supports private ownership of the means of production. The state very tightly controls production of goods. But once produced, distribution is generally controlled less.

Now we look at modern America: where are we on this spectrum? Are we the limited government the Founders wanted, or are we under a totalitarian state? Of course, we are not one hundred percent either. But we are now closer to Mussolini’s ideology than the Founders’. We do differ from Mussolini in ways, yes. We still have elections, political freedom, and some civil liberties. But our socio-economic system is a near replica of Mussolini. This is not an attack on one party or one politician. Both parties are guilty of corruption. Let us first examine the economics.

American Corporatist Economics

What economic system is America? Most people think we are capitalist. However, we are only capitalist in name. Modern American economics is closer to cronyism and corporatism (though it often may be called “mixed economics”) than capitalism. We truly haven’t had true capitalism in long time. People associate capitalism with corporate rule and bailouts for the rich as this is what our government does. But this isn’t capitalism at all!

Capitalism promotes a free market with voluntary transactions.  Members of Bernie Sanders’ movement often call out the merger of big corporation and our government. And they are right, this is a problem! But they are wrong in calling it capitalism. Mussolini called for state and corporate merging. Mussolini was not a capitalist. Capitalist philosophers like Adam Smith (who influenced the Founders), Ayn Rand, or Milton Friedman would simply never promote cooperate and state merger.

America’s history of corporatism and cronyism really starts with the New Deal, when President FDR started getting the government involved in the affairs of businesses. People who support this say that government and business merging would help untie the classes of the people. That has not worked out. It is true that the rich are getting richer. However, this isn’t the result of capitalism. This is the result of the government imposing heavy taxes on the people, but then allowing corporations to be exempt with loopholes. Your average big corporation can buy a politician in congress and manipulate the economy. The state and business can do whatever they please to “benefit society”. A small business owner or middle class family does not have this power.

This Isn’t What the Founders Wanted

Does this sound like what the Founders wanted? The men influenced by Adam Smith, the men who fought for freedom? Of corse not. There are examples of them speaking against this. One example of this is Thomas Jefferson. He actually stated:

The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed corporations.

But Mussolini would have liked this. Through the way the corporations and state may have differed, Mussolini would have loved the result. Having the power to control the economy. Remember him saying his ideology (fascism) is the merger of corporation and state? Is that not modern America? America may not have an autocratic leader, but do we truly have the republic our Founders gave to us? Perhaps not.

Mussolini, of course, wanted a strong, authoritarian, and imperialist government. This is not at all what the Founders wanted. Now the elephant in the room, the federalists. They wanted a “strong” government yes, but not even close in comparison to Mussolini’s government or even modern America’s government.

Just How Far Down the Road are We?

Is America the complete totalitarian state Mussolini dreamed up? No. But we are closer to that than we are the Founders. The Supreme Court, the branch that was supposed to block the government from growing and taking away liberties, allowed it. The Founders believed in God giving unalienable rights and that the sole purpose of the government as to protect those rights. Now, the view has shifted to “Government given rights”. Such a belief entails the notion that the government decides what rights we do and don’t have.

There are also similarities in foreign policy. The Founders wanted peaceful relations for nations. Mussolini, on the other hand, was very aggressive on foreign policy. Fascist Italy was very militaristic. Mussolini wanted to “recreate” the Roman Empire. What about modern America? We are essentially the world police, which The Founders never wanted. Of course, no fascist ever reached this status. But becoming the world police is closer to creating another Roman Empire than it is to peaceful relations.

Thus, the early and modern American governments are not remotely similar. It is truly sad that we have drifted closer to fascism, rather than maintaining the beautiful country so many fought and died for. Today, the patriots need to take a stand and work to go back to those days when freedom rang.

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Should Colleges Remove Thomas Jefferson from Curricula?

By Kaihua Zhou | United States

Among the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson is one of the greatest. His accomplishments include largely authoring the Declaration of Independence, helping pass the Virginia Statue for Establishing Religious Freedom, and enacting the Louisiana Purchase. Many principles that conservatives and libertarians hold dear first took form under Jefferson. Jefferson extolled the virtues of limited government, stating that “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” America is fundamentally Jeffersonian in its outlook. It is almost impossible to imagine America without these signature accomplishments.

However, Jefferson is increasingly labelled as a hypocrite. In March 2018, student activists in Hofstra University protested Jefferson’s statue on campus.  A number of liberal organizations such as Young Democratic Socialists of Hofstra denounced Jefferson as a white supremacist icon who justified slavery. This disgust has spread to Jefferson’s native Virginia. In the University of Virginia, a vandal defaced Jefferson’s statue, marking him as a racist and a rapist.

While it would be easy to dismiss these incidents as isolated cases of iconoclasm, they are part of a larger trend. In 1996, Stephen Ambrose, a celebrated historian, attended a panel on “Political Correctness and the University” at The University of Wisconsin. During the discussion, he discovered that one of his fellow professors, teaching American political thought, had purged Jefferson’s from her curriculum. When Ambrose inquired why, she simply responded that Jefferson owned slaves. What about Jefferson’s extraordinary accomplishments? They were erased merely for Jefferson’s status as a slaveholder.

How justified are these criticisms? It cannot be denied that Jefferson owned slaves, more than 600 of them at given moments of his life. Moreover, it cannot be denied that he held repulsive prejudices. He could not foresee free African Americans peacefully coexisting with Whites.  Moreover, Jefferson denied the potential of African Americans to obtain the same accomplishments as whites. “Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid: and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.

By contemporary standards, Thomas Jefferson was a racist.  Despite such prejudices, there is much more to his legacy.  What is too often forgotten in such denouncements is Jefferson’s anti-slavery efforts and views. Jefferson recognized that slave-owners were tainted morally by their practice: “The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other.

Far from being an unapologetic white supremacist, there is a note of self-awareness in Jefferson’s tone. It’s possible to imagine Jefferson privately feeling a very human remorse for his hypocrisy. Such remorse led to action. Jefferson limited slavery, barring it far from the contemporary Midwest in the Northwest Ordinance of 1784. Such legislative foresight prevented slavery’s depravity from expanding further into the new nation. As a revolutionary in 1774, Jefferson attacked the royal British government for allowing the slave trade.  As president, he acted on these noble instincts, passing the Act of 1807. This act concluded the slave trade in the United States, giving severe fines for illegally purchasing slaves.

Was Thomas Jefferson a hypocrite? Yes: his powerful mind was severely constricted by his era’s racial prejudices. Is this grounds for retroactive demoralization? If Jefferson’s primary accomplishments are insufficient to redeem him, what can? His anti-slavery views demonstrate that there is much more to his legacy than pure racism. This complex legacy deserves to be seriously studied by college students. Seeing Jefferson as “merely” a hypocrite or a racist oversimplifies the issue.  He should be respected and celebrated, not worshiped or demonized. He was a hero, but also deeply flawed.

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